July 2 2013
Cheaper energy is just what we need to improve the economy and thereby improve our own lives.
Fracking—the process for extracting oil from rocks using hydraulic power—has the potential to create jobs, economic boom times, and move us closer to energy independence.
Yet fracking has implacable enemies. Daniel Hannan, columnist and Conservative Member of the European Parliament, nails what is behind this opposition:
When I spoke in the European Parliament in support of fracking, most of the negative comments I received did not focus on specific safety concerns. Rather, they complained in general terms that fracking would 'poison the planet' or 'bleed Mother Earth' for no higher cause than 'greed'. What is meant here by 'greed' is the desire for material improvement that has driven every advance since the old stone age. 'Greed', in this sense, is why we still have teeth after the age of 30, why women no longer expect to die in childbirth, why we have coffee and computers and cathedrals.
'Greed' is why we have time to listen to Beethoven and go for country walks and play with our children. Cheaper energy, on any measure, improves our quality of life. But this is precisely what at least some Greens object to.
What they want, as they frankly admit, is decarbonisation, deindustrialisation and depopulation. They regard the various advances we've made since the old stone age - the coffee, the computers, the cathedrals - with regret. What society needs, they tell us, is not green consumerism, but less consumerism. Which is, of course, precisely what most Western countries have had since 2008. The crash brought about all the things that eco-warriors had been demanding: lower GDP, less consumption, a decline in international trade. Yet, oddly, when it happened, they didn't seem at all satisfied.
Next time you see a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline—and if you live in a city, you will see one, as I did Saturday on Connecticut Avenue—think what it is they really want. It’s not just to stop Keystone—it’s to stop economic development and normalize the Obama economy. That’s fine for Yoko Ono and other celebrity fracking opponents—they don’t need jobs and general prosperity—but it’s not so good for people who would like to achieve prosperity for themselves and their families.
As for the environmental impact of fracking, it can be disruptive in the initial states but, if handled correctly, the longterm threat to the environment is nil. If fracking adversaries really cared about the issues at hand, they would lobby not against fracking but for safe, environmentally-sensitive fracking. But, as Hannon indicates, their goals are more sweeping. They want a different kind of society from the one the prosperous West achieved from the Middle Ages until recently.